Book Review: The Secret Society of Demolition Writers

The Secret Society of Demolition Writers edited by Marc Parent

12 short stories by 12 well-known writers. The question is: who wrote what? In this eclectic collection, 12 writers had the chance to write whatever their hearts desired without fear of ruining their reputation or disappointing readers who have them pigeonholed. The lack of a byline creates some wonderful, quirky, fearless writing. The collection features anonymous stories from:

Cover of "The Secret Society of Demolitio...

Cover via Amazon

Aimee Bender

Benjamin Cheever

Michael Connelly

Sebastian Junger

Elizabeth McCraken

Rosie O’Donnell

Chris Offutt

Marc Parent

Anna Quindlen

John Burnham Schwartz

Alice Sebold

Lauren Slater

This book can be read a couple of different ways. If you have no idea who the authors are, you can simply enjoy each story for what it is. If you are familiar with all of the authors, you can try to make an educated guess at who wrote what, but be careful because as Marc Parent writes in his introduction: “many writers have gone to great lengths to steer you from the path to their discovery…”

I am somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. I am very familiar with three of the writers (Aimee Bender, Lauren Slater, and Alice Sebold) have heard of others but never read their work (Michael Connelly, Rosie O’Donnell, and Anna Quindlen) and had never heard of the rest (Benjamin Cheever, Sebastian Junger, Elizabeth McCraken, Chris Offutt, Marc Parent, and John Burnham Schwartz).

So, needless to say, I am at a loss in the guessing game, although one story cobbled together the writers’ names to form major and minor characters’ names (Rosie Slater, for example). Perhaps if I went back and re-read that story, paying closer attention to the names, they would serve as a sort of code (such as, the one name that is missing from the story actually wrote it). I have an idea of who wrote a couple of the stories, but it’s more fun to leave it a mystery. That said, if I happen to come across a helpful guide online to unmasking these authors, I’m certainly not above reading it.

Guessing games aside, I thought this was an excellent collection of short stories. I noticed that many of them had a dark tone, but the violence or disturbing themes present played a central role in the stories; none of it seemed gratuitous. I tend to find one writer whom I adore and then proceed to read everything he/she has ever published. I can be hesitant to try new writers because I’m afraid that they won’t be as good as my favorites, and therefore reading their work will be a waste of time. This collection was a good way to explore different types of writing without the commitment that comes with a novel. I had no prejudices because most of the time I was completely in the dark about whose work I was reading. This is a good read for fans of any of the writers included in the collection, or for readers like me, who love to read short stories.

Recommendation: 4.5 out of 5 lupines


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